Signs That a Hen Will Begin Laying Soon

You’ve carefully chosen your chick breeds, placed your order, and waited patiently for your hatch day to arrive. You’ve successfully navigated the brooder phase and the awkward “teenager” chick phase. Now, the days are nearing when you expect your first eggs to arrive from your hens.

Young Pullet - Cream Legbar Chicken - Meyer Hatchery

Is She Old Enough?

Breed averages can vary, but typically a pullet (young female chicken not yet laying) will begin to lay eggs around the age of 16-24 weeks. Before she begins laying, you can observe a few signs that she’s almost ready, if you watch closely. Here is a list of things to look for as you anticipate your first pullet eggs from your young flock.

Splash Orpington Chicken - Meyer Hatchery

Comb Reddening

A pullet’s comb and wattles will enlarge and turn bright red in color when she’s nearing point-of-lay. The comb and wattles also look somewhat waxy and plump. Comb reddening and development is due to the increased blood flow and higher hormones circulating in the maturing pullet’s system.

The Submissive Squat

Leave it to Mother Nature to know best when a young pullet is nearing the egg-laying age. If you have a rooster or two in your flock, the first sign I’ve often noticed is that the rooster is suddenly interested in breeding with the pullets. If you don’t have a rooster, you may still notice that your pullets begin to squat when you approach them. Squatting with the wings spread out low is a submissive posture a hen takes when the rooster is going to mount. Young pullets will often squat when a human quickly approaches. After she matures a bit more she will learn this isn’t your intent.

Chicken Submissive Squat - Golden Buff Pullet - Meyer Hatchery

Interest in Nesting Boxes

Within a week or two before the onset of laying, you may see a pullet jump into the nesting boxes and check them out. When I see this happening, I like to put some golf balls or wooden eggs in the nest boxes to help the pullets understand that the nesting boxes would be an excellent spot to lay eggs. An egg in a nesting box tells a hen, “this spot is safe from danger for you and your chicks”. If you watch your flock lay their eggs, you’ll notice that a hen will usually get on a nest that already has an egg instead of picking an empty nest. 

Also, make sure you have plenty of nesting boxes for the number of hens. I recommend 1 nesting box for every 4 hens. If a newly laying pullet must fight for nesting box space, she will more likely choose an alternative spot that you won’t know about.

Chickens in Nesting Boxes - Meyer Hatchery

Switch The Diet

When you begin to see the first signs of a pullet who is nearing point-of-lay, switch their diet over to a layer ration that contains calcium. Once a pullet begins to lay eggs, their body will pull calcium from her bones and bloodstream if there is not enough calcium in her diet. A lack of calcium in her system can cause weak shells, bone fractures, and possibly even death. In addition to providing a calcium-enhanced layer ration, I provide oyster shell or limestone in a “J” style small animal feeder so the hens can eat extra calcium as they may need it.

Now you are prepared with the signs you may see when a pullet is reaching laying age. Leave us a comment below and let us know what breed you have and at what age she began to lay eggs. Happy chickening! 

Reference: Poultry DVM-hypocalcemia

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